Energy Problems during Marathon Training

by Nick

I have been running for around two years now and I am right in the middle of training for my first marathon in about two months' time. I run 5 times a week, but have had a couple of problems with energy during some recent training sessions...

For example, last week I had to run 6 miles intervals on Tuesday, 8 miles steady on Wednesday and was heading out for 7 miles steady on Thursday. About 2 miles into the 7 miles, I started to feel tired and weak, a bit jelly-legged, hungry and cold.

Not the first time this has happened and all I could do was limp home at a reduced pace. I've examined my diet and fluids and think that I have a pretty good balance - I weigh 165lbs, consume around 1800-2000 calories per day and generally drink about 2 liters of water per day.

Any ideas what I am getting wrong or advice to help me with training?

Thanks in advance!

Answer by Dominique:

Hi Nick,
Thanks for your marathon training question.

Marathon training is very tough and takes a lot out of you. And at times it is possible to just have an off-day. I have had it plenty of times in the past. You are building up your mileage and you are trying to do several pretty hard runs consecutively. One day you feel top off the world, the other day you feel terrible and your pace is much lower.

A few thoughts on this, to help turn things around:

1. Hard/easy principle
2. Recovery and marathon training
3. Nutrition and marathon training

energy problems during marathon training

Hard/Easy Principle

One thing I don't like about your training week as you describe it is that it does not include a clear easy day in the middle. You are doing a 6 mile interval session, followed by a 8 miles steady and then the next day 7 miles steady. I would much prefer if with the same mileage you were doing:

7 miles interval session on Tue
5 miles easy / recovery pace
9 miles steady

See the difference? Rather than going from hard to moderate to moderate workout, you are creating a clear easy day in the middle. This allows the recovery you need.

Clearly, this is just a diagnosis of one week, but you may want to evaluate your training schedule and check whether you are truly following the hard/easy approach or if you have slipped into a moderate/moderate schedule (very easy to do).

Recovery and Marathon Training

Aligned with the above is that you need to find ways to recover better and more when in the midst of marathon training. This could include going to bed earlier and trying to sleep for longer and adjusting your activities in the weekend to accommodate your running. E.g. try to avoid a whole day of gardening on the Saturday when you have your long run planned for the Sunday morning.

Stress is stress is stress. Whichever way it comes at you. Through running, lack of sleep, work, chores at home, etc., etc. You are increasing the stress on your body through your running. To keep things in check, you will want to try and balance it out in other areas of your life. Easier said than done, I know, but necessary.

energy problems during marathon training

Nutrition and Marathon Training

Your calorie intake of 1,800 - 2,000 calories looks to be on the low side. When you are training seriously like you are, you want to make sure you get plenty of energy in via good foods and enough of it. Also check out the Marathon Training Nutrition page.

I'd recommend eating a bit more, add a few snacks. One tactic I think works well is having a snack after dinner at some point. Not huge and not unhealthy! But a bit of yoghurt, some nuts, a rice cake with peanut butter, etc, etc. Something like that. When you are just about to go to sleep and deprive your body of nutrition for 8 hours or so, I think it makes sense to give it that little extra when you are doing heavy marathon training.

Hope that helps. Try to keep it going and know that taper is only a little while away!

Best of luck in the upcoming marathon!

Kind regards,

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